A mother and daughter face felony welfare charges after allegedly bilking county agencies out of nearly $200,000 in what prosecutors on Friday called the “largest housing fraud scheme in Orange County history.”
Errica Madkins Mickens 56, and Brittany Monet Mickens, 29, were arrested on Thursday, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The Westminster women are accused of cheating the Orange County Housing Authority and the county’s In Home Supportive Services program out of more than $190,000.
While receiving public benefits, the two allegedly took trips around the world, bought a new SUV and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts.
Errica Mickens became a client of IHSS by pretending to be unable to speak or walk, according to the DA’s office. She received the maximum benefits, reserved for the most severely disabled client who require 285 hours of assistance each month.
Brittany Mickens, meanwhile, posed as her mother’s in-home care provider, according to investigators. Neither allegedly disclosed their familial relationship during the public assistance application process.
They were able to gain eligibility for the public programs by concealing their true identities through the use of multiple birth certificates and identification cards, prosecutors said.
The two also lived in Brittany’s home, but the mother “illegally” received a housing voucher for it, according to the DA’s office.
“Applicants are not eligible to receive housing vouchers while they are living in a home owned by a relative,” the release stated.
The DA’s Public Assistance Division began investigating after the Housing Authority notified them of discrepancies.
Errica was surveilled during the investigation, during which time she was observed moving trash cans, carrying tires, driving, shopping and handling large suitcases without any help, prosecutors said.
Investigators also found photos on Facebook showing Errica and Brittany on trips to Italy, France and Belize, according to the release. One picture allegedly depicted the two on a rollercoaster at Disneyland Paris, despite the mother’s claim to be bedridden.
More than $600,000 was ultimately discovered in their bank accounts and authorities also learned the two recently purchased a 2019 Land Rover, according to authorities.
“The brazen way this program was exploited by these two individuals to steal taxpayer dollars is beyond disturbing. If you’re going to cheat the system, we will find out and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” DA Todd Spitzer said in a news release.
Errica and Brittany Mickens have each been charged with one felony count each of grand theft public housing fraud, grand theft of housing funds, medical insurance fraud and grand theft. In addition, they face four enhancements of aggravated white collar crime.
Both face eight years in prison if convicted as charged.